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Jake Bequette eager to learn tight end position

Jake Bequette thinks catching the ball might be the easiest part of playing tight end.Stephan Savoia/AP

FOXBOROUGH — It’s not too often players in the NFL hop across the line of scrimmage to another position. Jake Bequette is doing just that for the Patriots, making the switch from defensive end to tight end.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 265-pound Bequette was drafted by the Patriots in the third round in 2012 out of Arkansas. But he has played eight total games in his first two seasons.

Last August, Bequette was released by the Patriots and signed to their practice squad, where he remained for the rest of the season. He began work at tight end as part of the scout team last season and it progressed to a full-time gig during organized team activities this year.

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“I never really asked and I don’t really think it was official [until the] OTA session started,” Bequette said. “I was going both ways a lot during the season, so it just kind of went from there.”

Bequette said the new position isn’t completely foreign to him. He played tight end in high school and, after redshirting his freshman year at Arkansas, it was up in the air whether he would go tight end or defense. He even played tight end on the goal line during his rookie season in New England.

Still, with his NFL-caliber colleagues on defense and with an NFL offense to learn, the switch is a challenge.

“It’s a learning process, it’s not going to happen all at once,” Bequette said. “But, I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other, just string good days together, and hopefully build for a solid training camp.”

It doesn’t hurt though that Bequette has guys like Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui, and even Patriots newcomers Scott Chandler and Fred Davis, to learn from. Those four have a combined 26 years of experience.

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“Having some really good vets in the room and Coach [Brian] Daboll has been great,” Bequette said. “They really challenge me and have really helped along the way.

As far as getting his hands ready, Bequette said he’s spending “quite a bit” of time with the JUGS machine. He said catching the ball may be easiest part of it all.

“I mean, so much of the position is getting in position to make a catch,” Bequette said. “And that’s just kinda the cherry on top.”

Bequette said that, in some respects, playing offense is more of a mental challenge than playing defense.

“I just try to take that in stride and just try to put the pieces together, learn the concepts of the offense, and come out here and play fast,” Bequette said.

Coach Bill Belichick is impressed with what he’s seen so far, but indicated Bequette’s days on defense may not be over. Bequette is still listed as a defensive end on the roster.

“The techniques are different, but he played on the end of the line on defense, so he has some familiarity with that kind of spacing over there, if you will, and what it looks like on the other side of the ball,” Belichick said. “[He’s] athletic in the passing game, he’s got good size and playing strength. We’ll see how it goes in training camp.’’

He’s made a lot of progress and I think he’ll be ready to compete at that position as well as on defense.”

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Mentally, Bequette’s time on defense should help him on offense. He’s been in the shoes of those trying to disrupt him. He said he appreciates defense more now that he’s seeing it from the other side.

“I kind of understand just how you’re trying to beat certain coverages, certain fronts, certain blitzes,” Bequette said. “And running routes is all about . . . finding out what the defense is doing and then doing the right things to beat it.”

Like many, the work will continue for Bequette during the team’s summer break ahead of training camp. When asked how many guys he’ll have throwing to him over the next several weeks, he said, “hopefully a lot.”

“I need all the work I can get,” he said.

Quitting time

Belichick sent his players off to an early summer vacation, with the team announcing that Thursday’s practice had been canceled. Though the Patriots did have a light practice last year on the third day of minicamp, this is not the first time Belichick has surprised his players by cutting things short.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff in,” Belichick said. “We’ve gotten into more situational football each day. We’ll just keep building on that. It’s good to expose it to them once and then the next time around, hopefully it will come a little bit quicker.’’

“We’re not going to conquer the world this week, but we can just keep pushing forward on all the basic situations and then as many of those extra ones as we can get to just puts us that much further ahead down the road.”

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Belichick, who has had the name of his boat changed to Six Rings to reflect his newest piece of jewelry (he won two Super Bowls as a member of the Giants’ coaching staff and now four with New England), even acknowledged he’s looking forward to some down time.

“We’ve got a lot done,’’ he said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but it will be good to just be able to get caught up on some personal stuff and obviously relax a little bit. Hopefully that’s what it will be.”

Cardona on duty

Rookie long snapper Joe Cardona was on the field for the five practices media were present for this spring, though no one is offering any concrete answers on what the Navy is allowing Cardona to do in terms of his service commitment.

“We’ll see,” Belichick said. “He’s been here for pretty much everything that we’ve done. Ultimately, that’s not really our decision, but the Navy has been very cooperative in terms of his responsibilities. But he’s in the Navy; he’s on duty. It’s not like he’s getting out of anything, he’s active.’’

Cardona is the only snapper on the roster. His contract has a unique structure reflecting the possibility that he may be called away for his Navy commitment.

Chandler sits out

Chandler was absent from Wednesday’s session. He suffered an apparent injury during Tuesday’s practice.

Talking to the media Tuesday, Chandler seems to be enjoying New England.

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“I’ve had a great time coming in here and getting to know these guys and working with them,” Chandler said. “The guys work hard and we want to be better than we are right now, and I think that goes for everybody on the team.”